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Website Review of CoreObjects.com

This is a quick usabilty review of CoreObjects.com, a website for software development services.

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Congratulations! This is a free usability review from UsabilityInstitute.com. "Usability" refers to how easy and effective it is to use a Web site. Although it involves how a site looks (graphic artwork), it is primarily concerned with how a site works, what you click on, what happens, and whether the site does its job. Perhaps this review is all you need to improve your site. If that's the case, great. Please mention UsabilityInstitute.com if you talk with others who need help with their site.


The following three sections provide a general analysis of your website from a relatively quick review. Although Web design is still perceived as a highly creative endeavor, there are many aspects of it that call for standardization and compliance with widely established conventions. Implementing even a few of the ideas below can really improve a site.

 

  Part 1: Content Basics
    This first section is intended for typical public web sites (for products and corporate information), but also applies for the most part to intranets and software applications that run in a browser. We've been advocating many of these ideas—in the context of general software—since our 1997 book, Computers Stink, but they've been beautifully enumerated for WWW purposes in Steve Krug's book, "Don't Make Me Think."
      Click for explanation State of the Art, a Model for OthersGreat Work!Does the JobI Can HelpUndetermined/Not ExactlyNot Applicable
Hover for explanation
Comments
  1. Logo in top left, linked to home Does the Job Yes
  2. Tagline Does the Job We build software that builds companies.
  3. Welcome blurb I Can Help

Not exactly. Skips past any blunt explanation of what the company excels at and goes right into their philosophy... seeming to skip the specific differetiation between their offering and others'. It's there, but it takes a little bit too much effort. Is the driving direction the Product Development Platform???

Maybe it can be found in here: "...They provide an intelligent mix of expert offshore development resources to deliver significant savings, while also placing engineers in our offices to effectively manage communications and optimize process efficiency."

  4. Plain wording Does the Job Yes with some exceptions> CUP is in the secondary navigation.
  5. No 'happy talk' Undetermined/Not Exactly Maybe just a little too much. With such intense competition, consider this sentence on the home page: "Visit our knowledge center to see the latest trends in technology." Maybe it should just be a headline and two meaty trends? And the Core Culture section starts to get trite.
  6. Concise wording Undetermined/Not Exactly Very slightly too much text per page as you start digging down. Vistors would have to be fairly dedicated IT readers to want to read 8 paragraphs per page for the practice philosophy pages.
  7. Visited pages are distinguished by link color-coding I Can Help No. This is turning out to be one of the most consistently difficult items to satisfy because it conflicts with the aesthetic design. I think on a sitel like CoreObjects, it might be somewhat important, as a prospective visitor could be trying to simply browse the site to get a full understanding of the company. Maybe the solution is to change the visited color just slightly toward purple.
  8. "Utilities" are easy to find Does the Job Contact Us is in upper right.
  9. Search on all pages, with box and button I Can Help  
  10. "You Are Here" indicator Does the Job Yes, double-arrow on subpages.
  11. Breadcrumbs' as links Not Applicable No but not a deep enough site to consider as an omission.
       

 

 



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Part 2: Visual Design: Fonts, Colors, Layout, Basic Interaction Design, and Accessibility
As we read in a graphic artist's ad, "Technology makes it work but art makes it sell," and you should take heed. We're not graphic artists here at Uinst, but we know good art when we see it and the common denominators that separate good pages from bad are clear. Look at the top sites and you'll see they spell out the following criteria.
  Click for explanation State of the Art, a Model for OthersGreat Work!Does the JobI Can HelpUndetermined/Not ExactlyNot Applicable
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Comments
1.

Sans-serif fonts

Does the Job Yes
2.

Appropriate background color

Does the Job Yes
3.
Appropriate color hues Does the Job Yes
4.
Visual representation of the information hierarchy Does the Job Yes
5.
Conservative quantity of colors Does the Job Yes
6.
Text sizes are "relative" I Can Help No
7.
Anti-aliased graphics Does the Job Yes
8.
Graphics' file size doesn't slow navigation Does the Job Yes
9.
"Alt tags" used well Not Applicable  
10.
Links don't just say "Click Here" Does the Job  
11.
A style sheet (CSS) is used Undetermined/Not Exactly Yes but redirecting to my own stylesheet didn't apply any styles so vision-impaired users aren't helped.

 

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Part 3: Genuine Value: Useful Content & Critical Interaction Design


And now for the hard part. If all of good Web design were as clear-cut as parts 1 & 2, above, you wouldn't need much judgment and there would be a lot more good sites. But the easier the decisions are, the less significant the thinking and effort behind them... and the easier it would be to provide useful content. This section is where you make or break your rapport with the visitor. If you provide real value and give folks enough tools to get to it, they will push past the basic omissions and ignore even the most amateurish art.
  Click for explanation State of the Art, a Model for OthersGreat Work!Does the JobI Can HelpUndetermined/Not ExactlyNot Applicable
Hover for explanation
Comments
1. Questions are answered Does the Job This is really the key issue. See summary.
2. Search results get the job done Not Applicable  
3. Effective 'click tree' Does the Job One problem was spotted: The Lines of Service page shows venture capital firms. Users immediately fixate on page content. Only after looking at the left nav do you see the lines of service. Consider making a separate page for "Partners"?
4. Conceptual flow from upper left to lower right Does the Job Yes
5. Simple, outline-like site map I Can Help None.
6. Primary navigation is obvious Great Work! Yes
7. Secondary navigation is obvious Does the Job Yes
8. Contact information easily accessible State of the Art, a Model for Others Yes
9. Links are clear Great Work! Yes
10. Intro panel or animation not excessive Does the Job Yes
11. Graphics used only for core message Does the Job Yes... actually could use more page graphics.

 

Summation & Next Steps

Overall Rating: Strives / Does the Job Survives / Thrives

CoreObjects is a highly professional and attractive site. Its challenges and limiting factors lie not in usability but in areas of marketing, copy writing, graphics, and creating more compelling content. I'm not a marketing guy, but I'll offer my thoughts. In terms of usability, yes it has a few flaws (site map, search, visited-link color coding) but these are all "compliance" and convenience type issues, not structural or conceptual impediments that make the site ineffective to use. One reads a few pages and gets the idea.

Recommendations:

  1. The first question is, what is CO's differentiator... foundational code, onsite project leaders... perfected methodology??? This needs to "float to the top" (the home page?) better... and perhaps look like a theme on other pages. Is "productizing product development" the strongest theme? Maybe accountability is a huge differentiator to focus on.
  2. Exploit and promote the presentation of key successes, such as Stamps.com. Although the home page has some Recent Customer links, the high profile Stamsp.com is buried. Consider replacing one of the testimonials with a prominent Case Study box. And make the Recent Customers links go to your own page that profiles the success stories in 1/3 of a page each, with bullet items. Only take the visitor to the customer site from that page.
  3. I feel that on a very wordy site like this each page, or most of them, should have an anchor graphic... one that marks the page in the visitor's mind. Eliminate the repetitive graphic of the man in gray. The flowchart and architectural graphics have potential. Improve them to make the text legible. Make sure most of the message pages have a graphic above the fold. Putting them at slightly different spots is a design choice.
  4. Perhaps make better use of callouts... larger text in a block, and even bullet items to replace a few paragraphs.
  5. People Excellence is cliche. Perhaps change it to Core People and rethink the secondary navigation that says Core People.

Hope this helps and let me know what you think,
Jack Bellis, UsabilityInstitute.com

 


"My interest in usability arose from the pain and tears of patching the wounds of suffering interface designs with the inadequate bandages of help files and user guides." — Daniel Cohen
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